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Gradual build to Manu's spectacular show

Manu Tuilagi’s influence in the win over the Scarlets felt to The Tig like part three of a blockbuster triple bill, coming after the scene had been set in the two previous episodes.  

Three weeks ago, he returned from a short absence to play a strong supporting role in the win over Saints at Twickenham. Then he scored against Ulster in Belfast before grabbing the headlines in an eye-catching win over the Scarlets.

Against Saints, in conditions where doing the basics were going to be as important as controlling emotions, he did not have many opportunities in attack, but Manu’s role in defence was vital.

It wasn’t about spectacular big hits or the collective “ooosh” in the crowd as an opposition player meets an immoveable object, though, because on this occasion it was all about discipline and repetition.

Manu made his tackles, as too did centre partner Kyle Eastmond alongside, and he stayed in line ready for the next one.

There was one particular moment where Tigers were pinned on their own line and Eastmond came out to make a telling tackle, with Manu arriving in support to push the outnumbered Saint another few metres backwards. It was indicative of their work together and their work as individuals on the day.

Manu would have taken a lot out of that game, particularly after the injury scare which had the doubters worrying about how long he would be absent.

Then in Belfast, he scored a try in the 76th minute of an attritional afternoon.

For much of the second half, Tigers had been on the back foot. But then Manu received a simple pass and suddenly he was in a one-on-one situation. The tackler was brushed off and he ran through to score.

It did nothing to change the outcome, but it would have done him a world of good, even on such a tough day at the office.

The performance against the Scarlets, certainly the second half of it, was more like headline stuff. He was running good lines, his timing was spot-on and the quality of his carrying had Scarlets back-pedalling. It also allowed Tigers to play on front-foot ball and find their runners in attack on a night which yielded five tries.

Manu’s score came after he carried forcefully in midfield and then tracked the ball until he had sight of the line. And it was only a partial sight, with three defenders determined to make sure he did not make it. But make it he did, in a style which we know not many others could have done.

The second-half fightback against the Scarlets was all about the value of momentum. And it’s just the kind of momentum that Manu can provide.